How to talk about tough topics
Tough topics: Why can simply talking about them provoke disagreements so intense that relationships begin to unravel or communities divide?
Panelists get wired for conversation. The educators and administrators gathered for the panel discussion soon become so immersed in discussing how to talk respectfully about tough topics that the microphones, recording their dialogue for this article, soon fade into the background.
It’s tempting to think we might all be better off if we lived in a world where everyone agreed on every-thing. What a stress-free place that would be! And yet, what a gloomy, uninteresting existence—devoid of stimulating conversations, significant discoveries, deepened relationships, profound understanding.
Differences of opinion, while an inevitable consequence of the fact that we are all very different, don’t necessarily have to be divisive or destructive. They can enlighten, inspire, and strengthen us—if we approach disagreements with civility, grace, humility, respect, and understanding. Easier said than done? Without a doubt; but an ideal Messiah College strives to embrace nonetheless. So, how do we learn to disagree in this way?
To shed some light on the subject, several members of the Messiah College community were invited by The Bridge magazine to participate in a panel discussion that explored the challenges, dynamics, and rewards of discussing and constructively disagreeing about “tough topics.” John Yeatts, professor of the psychology of religion, moderated the discussion. An important purpose of the dialogue was to enrich our understanding of why, especially as Christians, we should not be fearful of such discourse but should embrace the unique opportunities disagreements can provide for us to grow and be strengthened as individuals and as a community.
We hope you will find the following highlights of the discussion interesting and insightful—even if you don’t agree with all of them!
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